All right, enough with the off-topic discussion about turbo lag, let’s reveal the results!
CSR61 Reviews and Results, Part 2: Test Drives and Final Verdicts
Yesterday had been relatively straightforward, with the least worthy contenders being weeded out very quickly, leaving just five cars up for consideration. But now, the only way to decide on a winner was to test-drive each of them, and here was my chance to make the correct decision based on how they drove. So without further ado, I began visiting the dealerships.
I visited the Orion dealership first and asked their salesmen if they would let me test drive the bright yellow XS-1 sitting on their forecourt. They obliged and handed me the keys. As I turned on the ignition, it was clear that this thing felt like the supercar that it claimed to be. Its twin-turbo SOHC V8 growled like a panther at idle, goading me to hit the gas. As soon as I reached a deserted intersection, I did just that - and was pressed into my seat by the sheer amount of thrust on offer. With so much firepower under the rear deck, it was immediately clear that Orion’s claim of 0-60 in 3.4 seconds and 210 mph flat-out were dead-on accurate.
This, however, was more than just a straight-line brute. An AWD system, viscous diff and semi-active suspension ensured that the XS-1 could handle even the tightest turns without much fuss, and rocket out of them afterwards. And although the engine redlines at just 5800 rpm, who needs revs when you’ve got torque - and loads of it? In short, this is a hypercar (if such a thing exists right now) for the price of a much more affordable sports car.
My only complaints are that its interior, despite being claimed to be premium in the brochure, only has a 2-speaker stereo and no passenger’s airbag, while the build quality is merely average. And despite the weight savings, this is still a heavy car, weighing in at four metric tons. Nevertheless, on account of its immense horsepower, the XS-1 remains in contention. I was still recovering from its immense accelerative forces as I begrudgingly handed back the keys to the dealership staff.
I headed for the Centauri dealership next, and spotted a few Buffaloes parked just outside their showroom. I kindly asked their staff if they could lend me their latest GTZ model for me to test drive. They accepted, and tossed me the keys to a dark blue coupe. I soon headed out to the street and floored the accelerator.
“Now THIS is a muscle car!” I exclaimed as the Buffalo built up speed, hitting 60 mph in just 4.2 seconds. I quickly realized that this thing might actually reach 186 mph given enough room, making a glorious noise in the process. Up in the hills above Malibu, the Buffalo’s 50/50 weight distribution and 265mm-wide tires at each corner worked in its favor, allowing me to steer it on the throttle and execute big, smoky drifts without too much risk of spinning out. En route back to the dealership, I was reassured by the lack of annoying rattles in the interior, which, like the Orion’s, also had only one airbag. But the Buffalo’s four-speaker stereo made it a much more pleasant place to be, which is why this car also became one of my favorites so soon after I drove it.
Half an hour later, I offered to test drive the Huntsman. Its normally aspirated I6 was very melodious throughout the rev range, and for the most part it was a comfortable cruiser, but it understeered like mad in the hills. I got out and realized that this car was running on all-season tires, but worse was to come. Out in the desert, I saw the speedo hit a brick wall at 150 mph - and immediately blamed the overly short gearing. For being too tame, and not fast enough, the Huntsman falls out of contention despite its elegant styling and relatively low price.
Fortunately, the Dragotec Vienna was much better to drive, and not just because it was more powerful. With its turbocharged I6 providing a very flat torque curve almost right off the bat, it was devastatingly quick in any gear, and just as entertaining as the Buffalo in the bends, thanks to well-sorted suspension and brakes. It was such a blast to drive, I almost forgot how opulent the Dragotec dealership was, with excellent customer service. As with the Orion, the build quality was only average and there was no second airbag, but the Vienna’s interior was quite comfortable, and was the only one to have a luxury CD player. As such, it’s not surprising that this car is a firm favorite among the enthusiast set.
And last but not least, I paid the GBF dealership a visit. Even Dragotec’s showroom had nothing on this one, which contained an elegant Bellisa and an aggressive La Astuzia, but for the purposes of my motoring research, I could only sample the latter. This was clearly the most beautiful car of the lot, and it was evident in the number of stares and thumbs-ups I got from bystanders. As for the driving experience, this lightweight coupe felt just like a race car, with the mid-mounted V8 wailing all the way to redline and the pushrod suspension working in unison with the aerodynamics to keep all four tires on the road. And yet, with a premium interior and sound system, plus dual airbags, it was more comfortable than I expected it to be. I was genuinely heartbroken when I finally had to return to the dealership and give back the keys.
And so, having already ruled out one contender, I had to rank the remaining four cars in order. After an hour of deliberation, I ranked them as follows:
4th: Orion XS-1. This is by far the fastest car of the quartet, and the most powerful. However, there is no place for a cheap stereo in an upmarket sports car, and the semi-active suspension components could lead to maintenance problems later on, which means that this big yellow beast just misses out on a podium spot.
3rd: GBF La Astuzia. More than anything else here, it looks, sounds, feels and drives like something from the 21st century. But the pushrod suspension is fiendishly complex, which is why I’m more likely to find it on a CART racer than a regular production car, let alone one that costs less than 25 grand. And I remembered Jake’s comment on not having the same car model as someone else. With so many other cars built on the La Astuzia platform, this was going to be all too likely for me if I bought one, and so this futuristic machine can’t finish any higher.
2nd: Dragotec Vienna. On paper, it seemed like this car would win very easily. With a seemingly endless supply of power and torque on tap, and very agile handling, it would make mincemeat of even the trickiest stretches of tarmac. Its well-appointed interior also had a luxury stereo as standard. But in making the Vienna so good at everything, from commuting to spirited driving and everything in between, Dragotec have made it feel clinical to a fault. In fact, the Vienna lacks the drama expected of a car of its caliber. I really wanted this car to win, but it didn’t feel visceral enough compared to some of the other cars I tested, and so it has to settle for second.
1st: Centauri Buffalo GTZ. Why did I choose to buy this car? It wasn’t because it was the fastest, most economical or best-looking of the bunch (it was none of those); it was because it had drama in spades thanks to its huge naturally aspirated pushrod V8 up front. And it could harness all of its immense power with ease, thanks to its 50/50 weight distribution. Moreover, being normally aspirated, the Buffalo’s V8 doesn’t suffer from turbo lag at all, whereas the Vienna’s I6 has a small but noticeable amount of hesitation when you hit the gas. Couple that with excellent reliability, superb build quality and you’ve got a recipe for a car that can take me deep into the 21st century, while giving me peace of mind along the way. Not even the lack of stability control or a passenger airbag could stop me from buying the big blue Buffalo.
As I drove off the Centauri dealer lot in my brand new Buffalo GTZ, I spotted a curvy blonde woman in a blue dress walking down the street. She waved to me, and told me to pull over to the curb, before asking me in a soft, low voice, “Can you please take me to the premiere of The Phantom Menace this evening? I’ve already bought a ticket to it! I hope you have one as well.” I replied, “So who are you really?” Her response left me in awe. “I’m the famous Malibu Stacey Blitsch. I love action and adrenaline, and your car provides it in spades. I’m getting in with you right now. We don’t have much time, so hurry up!”
Here’s some music for the upcoming chase scene:
That’s when I spotted a pack of cars looming in my rear-view mirror. “Uh-oh…” I muttered worriedly. “Those must be the cookie-cutter cars Jake mentioned yesterday… and their drivers don’t look too happy!” Immediately I realized I had to get rid of them as soon as I could. I roared off down the street at a rapid pace, with the pack of 10 cars in hot pursuit. That’s when Ms. Blitsch suggested a route that would dispose of my pursuers as quickly as possible. “Get onto I-10 Southbound as soon as possible, and try to lose them in the traffic. If any stragglers remain by the time you get to Highway 1, send them spinning into the oncoming lanes whenever you can.” I nodded in agreement and responded, “You’re crazy… but it might just work!”
Just before reaching the tunnel near the Santa Monica pier, the driver of the Guzzler overtook me, not knowing that he had made the biggest mistake of his life. I swerved to the right, and tapped his rear bumper, sending him spinning out of control. A few seconds later, the Bastion T-boned it and exploded on impact, while the Zeta was also unable to avoid the wreckage and promptly crashed. The entire southbound section of the freeway was blocked, leaving the Caliban and Kharmin with no means of escape. Travelling at 120 mph, they could not make a 180 in time and were also caught in the massive pile-up.
That left me with five cars to deal with, and as I came roaring out of the tunnel, I weaved in and out of the thick traffic, hoping to evade the remaining pursuers. As I cut across in front of a slow-moving minivan from the right, I PIT-maneuvered the Turol into the passenger side of the Vata, taking both of them out on the spot. But as I reached the end of the center divider, there were still three cars on my tail. That’s when Stacey yelled, “Now! Cut across into the oncoming lanes! They certainly won’t expect that!” So I yanked the wheel to the left, then back to the right, and darted in and out of oncoming traffic. My pursuers were not used to driving head-on into oncoming traffic at all, and couldn’t keep up. Two of them, in the AlSport and TC-1, were taken out in head-on collisions, leaving just the orange GBF La Astuzia.
As the road opened up and the traffic thinned out, the La Astuzia gained on me and gradually drew level with my Buffalo. Its driver sideswiped me from the left, but I easily maintained control. I immediately returned the favor, but to my horror, he didn’t spin out like the others did. That’s when I saw an 18-wheeler dawdling in the outside lane. I shouted, “I’m gonna knock this bastard right off the road!” and jerked the wheel to the left while simultaneously stepping on the gas. I hit him in the right front fender, sending him careening into the path of an oncoming big rig. I then felt the car spin to the right at high speed, and I countersteered to the left in a bid to keep the Buffalo off the walls.
Against all odds, my car ended up facing the right way, and I slowed down and headed for Sunset Boulevard. Meanwhile, the La Astuzia had hit the semi head-on and exploded in a massive fireball. There was no sign of its driver, and I assumed he was gone for good. All that was left for me to do was to get myself, Stacey and the Buffalo to the movie premiere on time, and I made it with just a few minutes to spare. Life in the 21st century, with a Buffalo GTZ, won’t be so bad after all, and there would never be a dull moment.
Many thanks and congratulations to all the participants! I hope you all enjoyed this round, and I did too.